What’s with All of the “Walk” Talk?

Author Mara Botonis shares her experience with the Alzheimer’s Association’s “Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” and encourages others to participate. Learn more from her about the Alzheimer’s walk, and what’s with all of the ‘walk’ talk.What's with All of the "Walk" Talk?

Walk to End Alzheimer’s

Summer provides a season perfectly suited for making memories. Graduations, weddings, family trips… For most of us, our favorite sun-drenched summer shenanigans, mundane moments and meaningful milestones are still accessible memories we can choose to call up whenever we want to revisit them. Unfortunately for those coping with Alzheimer’s disease, those poignant pieces of personal history can be hard to retrieve.

That’s why, for Alzheimer’s advocates across the country, summer is also the start of the “Walk Season.”

The Alzheimer’s Association Walk to End Alzheimer’s, or “The Walk” as it is known, is the largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Held annually in more than 600 communities across all 50 states, the walk unites more than 450,000 participants in a walk designed in equal parts to raise as much awareness as increase needed dollars to support the fight against Alzheimer’s.

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll note that just last week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a historic 60% increase in research funding as an enhancement to the Alzheimer’s Accountability Act. If passed into law, this would be the largest increase in Alzheimer’s funding to date, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.

There is still a tremendous need for more funding to provide and enhance programs focusing on education and support, advance critical research studies into methods of treatment, prevention and ultimately, and most importantly, a cure.

How to Participate in the Alzheimer’s WalkWalk to End Alzheimer's

I can almost feel your eyes roll as you read this… I know what you’re thinking, and I can relate. It’s easy to feel the effects of “fundraising fatigue” when it seems like everywhere you turn a worthy cause or organization is asking for financial support.

You might be thinking that if “The Walk” is the largest fundraising event for Alzheimer’s, it sounds like they’ve already pretty much got it covered without us having to lace up our “like new” sneakers and cajole family and friends into donning matching purple shirts, for a stroll around a nearby landmark, right?

Well, not so fast. As it turns out, Alzheimer’s could use a lot more help in the awareness and financial resources area. For starters, the proposed increase in government spending hasn’t passed yet and meanwhile, deaths from Alzheimer’s rose a staggering 68% in the last decade to become the #6 cause of all deaths in the U.S. and the only cause of death in the in the list of top 10 without any cure or treatment.

Also, not to be bitter, but according to a recent ranking of the Top 100 Non-Profit Fundraising Organizations, the Alzheimer’s Association (the only Alzheimer’s related non-profit that even made the list) comes in at a disheartening 35th behind other notable causes.

In the weeks and months ahead as Walk Season takes hold, there will likely be a steady parade of progressive pledge requests and t-shirt sales circulars making their way into your social media feeds, inboxes and water cooler conversations. Before you feign a particularly destructive computer virus or site a selectively inoperative cell phone rendering you unable to respond to such appeals, please take a moment to think about where the funds everyone is trying so hard to raise actually go.

The Alzheimer’s Association is world’s largest nonprofit funder of Alzheimer’s research, awarding over $335 million to more than 2,250 scientists since 1982, and through their partnerships and funded projects, have been part of every major research advancement in the fight against Alzheimer’s over the past 30 years. Their 24-hour helpline (1-800-272-3900) offers free information and advice by professionally trained staff to over 250,000 callers every year, they run over 4,500 support groups nationwide (an average of 90 in each state), curate the nation’s largest library and resource center devoted Alzheimer’s and related dementias, deliver 20,000 education programs annually and their comprehensive and interactive website connects people across the globe impacted by Alzheimer’s. The association is also the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

But, they are just that, largely voluntary and over one third of their annual revenue comes from the walks. It may not seem like such a big organization needs a little help from people like us, but it’s the people like us that make it possible for them to offer a lot of the programs we count on them to deliver.

Sometimes starting or donating to a walk team or buying a t-shirt or can make the difference between whether a local chapter can offer a support group on the weekends, provide an educational program to a group of future caregivers, get needed information in the hands of those newly diagnosed, or if the national office can allocate critical dollars to a lab of international experts studying the effectiveness of current medications.

If we’re going to be outside slathered in our coconut scented suntan lotion humming this year’s anthem of summer looking for a Popsicle between barbecues anyhow, well then we might as well do some good. It doesn’t cost anything to register, and who knows, maybe I’ll run into you at a walk in your area.

You’ll know it’s me because I’ll be the one in the purple t-shirt!

Mara Botonis

Author Mara Botonis, participant in the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.”

Have you participated in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s? What was your experience like? Share your story with us in the comments below.

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